Can you explain Brahman and Paramatma realizations in detail?
Transcriber: Sharan Shetty
Edited by: Keshavgopal Das
Question: Can you explain brahman and paramatma realizations in detail?
Answer: There are different ways in which these realisations can be understood like the sac-cit-ananda progression perspective given by Srila Prabhupada in Sri Isopanisad and another perspective is -Energies of the Absolute given by Srila Jiva Goswami in the Sandarbhas. Srila Prabhupada explains that both – atma and Supreme Lord are sac-cid ananda. Brahman realisation is when one starts perceiving that everything in the material nature is temporary and tries to think about something that must be beyond this which is actually eternal because we all have a longing for eternity and if nothing were eternal then from where would that longing come from. Why would we long to live eternally if there were no such thing as eternal life just like a person who has never seen gold would never desire for gold.
When one starts looking for the eternal and comes to the level of perceiving the eternal then he has perceived the sat aspect of the sac-cid-ananda feature of the Supreme Lord. Thus, perceiving the sat aspect is the characteristic of those who have realised the brahman but the important thing is, it is not that Brahman has only sat feature because brahman, paramatma and bhagavan are non-different and so they all have sac-cit-ananda feature. But the seeker who has realised brahman has realised only the sat aspect of the Absolute Truth. Progressively, when one moves forward and thinks that there is order in this world and realises it is controlled by a conscious being who is overseeing everything and keeping this order then one comes to the cit level. Here, one understands that there is a being who is supreme and the controller. At this level, one’s focus is on God as the controller of the material world and this is the paramatma realization. Beyond this when one evolves, he starts to think about the activities performed by the Supreme Being (most people think of what God can do for them but not about what God himself does in his abode). When one understands that the goal of existence is to be happy and therefore the Absolute Truth must also have this opulence of happiness in full, at that time, one comes to the bhagavan realisation where one understands that God lives with his devotees and performs many pastimes and in those pastimes rejoices eternally.
Srila Prabhupada explains that the realisation of the all-pervasive spirit in the sense that beyond this ever changing matter, there is some substratum which is eternal, is brahman realisation. Progressively, the understanding of the localized expansion of the Supreme Lord who although is present everywhere and can control from anywhere still he is present within the universe and from there he co-ordinates and controls it as explained in Brahma Samhita Chapter 5 Verse 35,
(All the universes exist in Him and He is present in His fullness in every one of the atoms that are scattered throughout the universe, at one and the same time)
So, the understanding that he is present in our heart, present in matter and in that way, pervasive as a Supersoul, is the paramatma realisation and he being present as a transcendental person in his own abode is the bhagavan realisation. The brahman and the paramatma level are fragmental or partial realisation of the Absolute Truth. Srila Jiva Goswami gives another frame of analysis where he says that,
– Brahman realisation is perception of the Absolute Truth with no potency,
– Paramatma realisation is perception of the Absolute Truth with material potency and
– Bhagavan realisation is perception of the Absolute Truth with both material and spiritual potency.
When one thinks of brahman, they have the conception of plain existence where the purpose of this existence is just to exist. They consider this entire material world an illusion and when one transcends it and attains brahman realisation, therein lies his perfection. This is the conception of brahman realisation where there is no activity, no energy needed for activity and there is passive existence.
Paramatma realisation is when one understands that there is an eternal reality which is governing this world and this world is not an illusion because while it exists ,it is real, and requires real controllership and that role is done by the Supreme Lord. In that way, one understands that the Supreme Lord has material potencies which means that the Absolute Truth has the capacity and the energy to control material nature.
Beyond that then there is the conception of the Absolute Truth having spiritual potencies which means that not only does God control material nature but beyond that he also has his own life in the spiritual world and in that life at the spiritual level, God delights eternally in performing pastimes. There is mention of the Supreme Lord’s spiritual energies in the Chaitanya Caritamrta – samvit, sandhini and hladini.
To understand God’s self-existence is very important which means that he has a life separate from his role here in this world and that self-existent potency of the Lord is revealed when we understand he has spiritual potencies. This self-existential glory is not talked about much in other scriptures of this world, it is primarily revealed in the Vedic scriptures.
Brahman, paramatma and bhagavan realisations can be further understood, in terms of increased proximities, with the example of a child describing a train. Consider a village where a railway track has been constructed for the first time and three children (who have never seen a train) are waiting near the platform to see that train. It is night time and very dark. Finally, after waiting for some time, they hear a whistle and then see a light approaching. Seeing this, one child gets excited and runs into the village declaring that he saw the train. When asked by the villagers, the child describes that the train is light and sound. The child is not wrong but since he returned early, he could not get the full experience of the train. The other two children are still waiting near the platform and when the train approaches closer and their eyes familiarise, they perceive that more than the light and sound, the train also has an engine, several bogies, wheels etc. Seeing this, one of the children runs towards the village and describes his version of train. Again, this second child’s description is not wrong but is incomplete since the train is more than that.
The third child waits and sees that after the train has halted, there was a person driving it with whom the child gets the opportunity to shake hands and who explains the child everything about the train. When this third child returns to the village, he describes everything about the train (the driver, the engine, various bogies, the light, horn etc). It is not about whose version is correct or incorrect; it is a matter of complete or incomplete. In this case, the third child got an almost complete perception of the train because he was patient enough to see completely till the end (of course, nobody can know Krishna completely).
To summarize, initially, when one seeks spiritual truth, by practising and with patience, one gets a realisation that there is an effulgent or pervasive light that is eternal, this is brahman realisation which is like the first child’s perception of the train where he thinks it to be just light and sound. Those who keep seeking, understand, that just as light comes from sun similarly the brahmajyoti is also coming from a source and that source is controlling the world, this is paramatma realisation which is like the second child’s perception of the train. At this level, the seeker treats the Absolute Truth as a conscious being but not necessarily as a personal object of love. Only when the third child waits long enough and meets the driver and shakes hand with him, he is able to develop a personal relationship. Otherwise one may have some idea that the engine has a driver but may not know anything specific about him. Similarly, at paramatma level one has the understanding that there is a controller but at the bhagavan level one develops a relationship with the controller and sees the controller as a person to be loved. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita 10.08
aham sarvasya prabhavo
mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam
(I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.)
That is the aim of the devotees and that is what we can get by mercy of Srila Prabhupada, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Krishna if we can open-mindedly and determinately practise bhakti.
End of transcription.